Is Premarital Counseling Necessary?
By: Patricia Oelze
Updated September 06, 2019
Medically Reviewed By: Rashonda Douthit , LCSW
Engaged? Congratulations! If you're like most engaged couples, you probably just can't wait to start planning the big day. After all, this is an event that most people look forward to all their lives. The dress, the venue, the flowers, the music...all of these things may naturally take first place in your mind when you think about the day you'll say, "I do."
But what happens when the wedding guests go home and the honeymoon is over?
Suddenly it's just the two of you...forever.
At first, everything seems fine. But then, some bothersome issues rear their ugly heads.
You may find that you're suddenly arguing about money all the time. Or maybe one of you wants to move to another state for a better job, meaning your partner would have to leave a job he or she loves. Or maybe you are not satisfied with the level of sexual intimacy and begin to resent your partner for it.
These, and many other potential conflicts, are normal issues that come up in the course of any marriage, even the best of them.
But just like any of life's problems, these are easier to ride out if you have a plan in place for dealing with them.
Hence...the importance of premarital counseling.
Because with all the time you spend planning your wedding, doesn't your marriage deserve at least as much attention?
If you and your fiancé(e) have been considering premarital counseling or wonder what the benefits of it are and if it's necessary for a lasting marriage, this article will hopefully answer those questions and provide you with a valuable premarital counseling resource.
When it comes to having a marriage that stands the test of time, it takes dedication and respect from and for your partner that supersedes the conflicts and differences that can arise throughout your life together. And while there's nothing that can guarantee a marriage will last, premarital counseling can go a long way towards creating the conditions for a truly happy marriage.
Premarital counseling comes in many forms (online, in groups, through a religious institution, etc.) and provides engaged couples with the opportunity to prepare for marriage by discussing topics that will be a significant part of your future life together and/or that may be potential causes for marital stress as the marriage progresses.
Here are some of the topics you can expect to cover.
This is one of the biggest topics that couples argue about, and is often cited as a reason for divorce. A therapist can help you agree on your financial goals and priorities to head off potential problems. You can talk about how much you want to save every month and specifically how you're going to go about doing it.
You'll come to agreements about a timeline for starting a family and how soon you want to do it. Being on the same page about discipline is critical, as well as an agreement about the values you want to pass down.
If one person is unhappy with the current level of intimacy in the relationship, do not expect it to get any better with marriage. Whatever your individual priorities, you will have a conversation about the best way to make them happen.
Values and Beliefs
What's most important to you? If you said friends and family, but your future spouse says work, you may need to agree on a few compromises. Similarly, if you're a devout Catholic and your spouse is an atheist, it may be helpful to consider various scenarios regarding how your belief systems may impact your marriage.
Future Goals and Aspirations
Are you planning to stay at the same job for the rest of your life? Or will you eventually crave a career change? And how will this affect the family? Do you feel it's important for one parent to stay home with the children when they're young? And how will that work?
Do you have opposing political views? Do you differ when it comes to hot button issues like feminism, gun control, or gay marriage? Without a plan to tolerate and accept these differences in opinion, your marriage could quickly become contentious. Learn to discuss opposing views with respect and love.
Where will you live? And how will you share that space? Will you move into your partner's home, or will you start all over from scratch in a brand new place? How much space does each person need? You will also want to discuss your living arrangements in the future as they become impacted by children and aging family members.
Marriage Role Expectations
Your ideas about the role of spouses is shaped in large part by your family of origin. Your future spouse had different experiences. It's helpful to convey your perception of a good marriage and what the expectations should be. You will each have to separate from the ideals of your family of origin in order to form your own expectations of what your marriage is going to be like.
However, premarital counseling provides more than just topics to discuss. While discussing these topics, you and your partner will also learn how to respectfully talk about them without the conversation leading to fighting and hurt feelings-plus how to successfully resolve conflicts when they inevitably happen. It will act as a safe space to reveal thoughts and feelings you may otherwise have been keeping to yourself for fear of "rocking the boat" or causing unnecessary stress on your relationship.
If you and your partner decide to partake in premarital counseling you can expect the following benefits:
- A better understanding of your and your partner's hopes for your marriage and life together
- Improved communication and conflict management skills to help keep issues from escalating into serious marital problems
- Awareness of differences that may require compromise and a chance to lay the groundwork for those compromises before you're married
- Outside examples of successful marriages and what it takes to maintain one
- Stronger bond and increased trust with your partner
- Reduced risk of divorce (according to a 2006 study, couples who had premarital counseling were 31% less likely to divorce)
- A greater awareness of the areas of your relationship that are already very strong and others that may need some more work
Couples who decide to forego premarital counseling can still go on to have a fulfilled married life and couples who participate in it can still end up divorced. However, there's no denying that it offers many benefits to couples in terms of ensuring they're fully prepared to make a lifelong commitment to each other.
If you're on the fence and would like to know a little bit more about premarital counseling or would like to find a reputable therapist to work with, an online site like BetterHelp.com can pair you with a licensed therapist for convenient and private counseling.
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